“What you have to understand about the Russians is that they want more recognition,” says Clumbi. “After the Iron Curtain fell, they joined the International Space Station, but a lot of attention is directed at the Americans there, and they don’t like it.”
Hence the rapprochement with China. Last month, Russia and China came up with a joint plan for a lunar base, ILRS, as a counterpart to the US-operated Gateway/Artemis Moon program, in which Russia will also have a small role. “The Russians were only offered to build the gate’s airlock, so they feel like second-rate partners.”
That is why Moscow is betting on several horses. “If the Americans don’t give Russia a bigger role in the gateway, Russia can choose to cooperate with China,” says Clumbi.
In the end, it’s also about money. Another unit is planned to power the Russian part of the International Space Station, so that the Russians are no longer dependent on large American solar panels. This part can also form the basis of a new plant. “But right now, there’s only a structural model for it, and there’s hardly any money to actually build the unit.”
At the same time, NASA, the European Space Agency, JAXA and Canada still urgently need the Russian part of the International Space Station, whatever its age, to control the situation and advance the International Space Station, assures Clumbi. “In the end, they can’t live without each other for the next few years.”
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